The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

THE END OF FILE-SWAPPING
(blogathon 2003)
Although lots of techies are in deep denial about this, it's pretty clear to me that the recent legal actions taken by the RIAA, consisting of subpoenas served to select users, pretty much will stick a fork in the era of free, downloadable music.

The argument that the music industry can't sue the millions of people who use Kazaa, Grokster and the like, and therefore can't totally stamp out the filesharing movement, misses the purpose of legal action like this. The aim is not to take millions of people to court; the aim is to target enough of them, stick them with such onerous financial penalties (thousands of dollars worth), and publicize it extensively enough, that it gives the majority of other users pause enough to stop using the programs. Naturally, once enough people stop participating, the filesharing networks will be less usable, because there'll be a lot less content on them; plus, when the active users dwindle to a relative few, it'll be that much easier to target each of them individually. It's like nailing people for speeding on the highway: The cops know they're never going to get everyone, but by nabbing a few, that deters the majority from doing it (at least to an excessive extent).

One way to put the fear into the Joe/Jane Average who don't realize they're doing anything illegal is to show off a sampling list of Kazaa user names that have been sent subpoenas. Of course, they can do this with Grokster, BearShare and all the other public fileswapping programs out there. Obviously, stripping the illusion of anonymity when using these programs is the key step in putting a stop to this.

The underlying justification to fileswapping is a very basic credo: It's possible and easy to do, so why not do it? Driving home the point that just because it's doable doesn't make it right, and consequence-free, is another thing that the music industry has only started to get across successfully. You could compare it to hacking: That's relatively easy to do and very possible once you're online; nobody's arguing that that's legal or right.

So anyway, I'm just looking forward to Apple's iTunes Music Store being available for Windows soon. I can afford to blow 99 cents for a song.